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Self-handicapping, popularly known as self-sabotaging refers to a process whereby, when put under certain conditions like tasks, an individual with specific personality traits, creates self-imposed obstacles that will hinder their successful completion of a task (Payne, 2020). The phenomenon was first described in 1978 by two researchers, Edward Jones and Stephen Berglas (Lucas & Lovaglia, 2005). The researchers argued that the phenomenon was motivated by a self-serving bias whereby when a person is unsure whether they can do something well, they fear failing and possibly getting their self-esteem hurt, causing them to find an external excuse that could lead to failure. That way, if they fail, they have something to put the blame on that is not themselves, but if they succeed, they attribute the success to themselves (Lucas & Lovaglia, 2005).

A personal experience with self-handicapping happened last month with a close friend of mine. One weekend, while we were making plans to go out and have some fun, Janet, one of my close friends, said that she had a test on Monday that she had not studied for. We encouraged her to stay home for the weekend and study while the rest of us went out to give her the space and silence she needed to study. However, after a few minutes, while we were getting ready, Janet decided to join us and said she would study the next day, Sunday. When Sunday came, Janet did not study and decided to join us again when we went out for the day, claiming that she had paid attention in class and that the teacher could not test on anything else but those lessons.

On Monday, Janet took the test, which she, unfortunately, failed. Subsequently, she tried to blame us for not pushing her to stay home and study. Further, Janet also complained that some of the questions in the test were not in what they had learned in class. The test was a big percentage of her final grade, meaning that she failed and had to retake the class.


Lucas, J. W., & Lovaglia, M. J. (2005). Self-handicapping: Gender, race, and status. Current Research in Social Psychology10(15), 234-249.

Payne, W. (2020). Population & the environment. Human Behavior and the Social Environment II.


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Share a time when you or someone you knew engaged in self-handicapping.



What was the outcome of doing so?

Note: Reading is chapter 7 of the textbook.

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